The Nonfiction Novel

In Cold Blood is an exemplar of the nonfiction novel, which tells a true story using the literary elements of a novel such as characterization, plotting, and figurative language. This style is part of what makes In Cold Blood so compelling. It is filled with lush language, beautiful descriptions of scenery, and keen observations of key figures. However, because it is presented as nonfiction, there is an assumption that everything in the book is all true, an assumption that has not withstood scrutiny. In fact, Capote embellishes events, combines multiple people into single characters, and changes details. For example, he claims that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation sprang into action immediately after hearing Floyd’s tip; in reality, they waited five days before pursuing the lead because Dewey didn’t trust it. As another example, Nye didn’t interview Mr. Hickock – only Mrs. Hickock was present. Some events never occurred, like the final scene of the novel in which Dewey and Nancy run into each other at the Clutters’ gravesite. Though Capote claimed his book was “immaculately factual,” many such discrepancies have emerged in the decades since its publication, suggesting that stylistically, In Cold Blood lies somewhere between fiction and nonfiction and should be read accordingly.